This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Learn more

The fragrance phrasebook

Decoding the world of fragrance

The fragrance phrasebook

Eau de toilette or eau de parfum? Ahmed Zambarakji unravels the mystery of scent terminology


Concentration: 4-8% perfume oil

Average price for 100ml: £45+

The most common concentration, you’re more than likely to own an EDT already. This fragrance strikes a happy medium between the fleetingness of a cologne and the full-throttle strength of an eau de parfum, which makes it suitable for any occasion, both day and night. Unlike an aftershave, it has too much perfume essence to be worn on the face. The term actually originates from the French phrase ‘faire sa toilette’, which literally translates as ‘to get ready’. Spritzing your scent was originally the final touch in the French dandy’s daily grooming ritual.

ShortList’s style director recommends: Bleu de Chanel eau de toilette £60 for 100ml by CHANEL; 020-7493 3836


Concentration: 1-3% perfume oil

Average price for 100ml: £30

Aftershaves used to be the closest a certain generation of man ever got to wearing a fragrance. The high alcohol content would ‘disinfect’ skin after shaving and the scent, being so faint, was something of an added bonus. As they’re intended to sort out freshly shorn skin, they’re usually dispensed straight out of the bottle. If you’re looking to calm post-shave rash, redness and other razor-related trauma, it’s best to invest in a dedicated balm. All the big brands now scent their soothing balms too, so you’ll still get a whiff of your signature aroma.

ShortList’s style director recommends: Eau Sauvage After Shave Lotion £42 for 100ml by CHRISTIAN DIOR; 020-7216 0216


Concentration: 2-5% perfume oil

Average price for 100ml: £40

This is the stuff that usually comes in those gigantic 200-300ml size bottles. And with good reason, as it’s simply not going to last for very long. That doesn’t make a cologne any ‘less’ of a fragrance — it just means that the concentration is better suited to those hot months when you don’t want to wear anything too heavy. This is why they are light, bright, summery scents made with citrus and herb notes and little in the way of a solid base. Many US houses simply use the term ‘cologne’ for marketing purposes, when the liquid inside is an eau de toilette. Your nose should be able to differentiate between the two with a little practice.

ShortList’s style director recommends: Eau de Cologne £110 for 100ml by PENHALIGON’S;


Concentration: 8-15% perfume oil

Average price for 100ml: £60+

We won’t lie to you: eau de parfum concentrations, which can pack quite a punch, have traditionally been marketed towards women. However they’re now becoming increasingly popular for men, especially when it comes to niche fragrances and extrême, intense, or concentrée re-formulations of bestsellers (you may well find an intense eau de toilette which puts the strength somewhere between an EDT and an EDP). Higher-end brands, whose customer base tends to be a little more serious about its scent, will usually opt for these due to their greater longevity.

ShortList’s style director recommends: Terre de Bois eau de parfum £85 for 100ml by MILLER HARRIS;


Concentration: 15–25% perfume oil

Average price for 100ml: £85+

Also known as ‘extrait’, this is what all perfumes were like in the 17th century. The pure form is extraordinarily powerful and absolutely not for the faint of nose — attempt more than two dabs of this and you’ll be reeking of it for days. Such concentrations are aimed at the connoisseur rather than the average Joe and are therefore rarely male-specific. A little goes a long, long way, so don’t expect to find an extrait in supersized bottles like an aftershave splash. And be prepared to part with a hefty sum for a tiny bottle.

ShortList’s style director recommends: Terre d’Hermès Pure Perfume £74.50 for 75ml by HERMES; 0844-800 3752